American Guild of Organists

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American Guild of Organists
Formation January 1, 1896; 121 years ago (1896-01-01)[1]
Type Professional association
Legal status 501(c)(3)
Headquarters New York, New York
  • United States United States
Official language
Michael Bedford, AAGO, ChM, DMA
Eileen Hunt, AAGO, DMA
Treasurer/Councillor for Finance
Barbara Adler, SPC, DMA
Mission To foster a thriving community of musicians who share their knowledge and inspire passion for the organ.

The American Guild of Organists, or AGO, is a national organization of academic, church, and concert organists in the U.S., headquartered in The Interchurch Center in New York City. Founded as both an educational and service organization, it was chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York in 1896, with the authority to grant titles of associate or fellow to members who passed required examinations.[1] Henry Houseley was a Founder of the American Guild of Organists, and Clifford Demarest played an important role in its first two decades.[2] The Guild seeks to set and maintain high musical standards and to promote understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music.[3]

Membership is not limited to professional organists, but is open to anybody with an interest in the organ and organ music. There are approximately 25,000 AGO members in all categories, of whom 18,409 are voting members as of 2009.[4] The AGO's current president is Michael Bedford, elected in 2016.


The AGO is geographically divided into nine regions and 330 chapters nationwide. In recent years, the AGO has added international chapters in Bermuda, Australia, Korea, and Singapore. The European chapter is the oldest international chapter, with many members in France and Germany, as well as some in other countries.[3]

The leadership of the AGO consists of a National Council, several Regions and various local chapters within each Region. The national headquarters are located at 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1260, in New York, New York, a building commonly known as the The Interchurch Center.

The National Council is the main governing body of the American Guild of Organists. The four National Officers, three National Councillors with portfolio and nine Regional Councillors are members of the National Council. The Executive Director is a non-voting member of the National Council.

The Executive Committee of the Guild is responsible for the management of the affairs of the Guild when the National Council is not in session and acts on matters referred to it by the National Council. All actions of the Executive Committee are subject to ratification by the National Council at its next meeting. The Executive Committee consists of the four National Officers, the three National Councillors with portfolio and the Convener of the Regional Councillors (elected by the Regional Councillors at their first meeting following a national election). The Executive Director is a member of the Executive Committee.

The National Officers of the Guild consist of a President, a Vice President, a Secretary, a Treasurer who also serves as the Councillor for Finance and Development, and a Chaplain. The Chaplain is an honorary national officer and not a member of the National Council.

National Councillors coordinate and represent to the National Council specific areas of the work of the Guild—education, professional development, competitions and conventions, and finance and development.

The Regional Councillors are elected by the members of the Guild assigned to Chapters within each of the seven regions. A Regional Councillor is responsible for supervision and coordination of the work of the Guild in their Region and representation of the Region on the National Council. In 2014, the formerly nine regions were consolidated into seven which now comprise:

  • West
  • North Central
  • Southwest
  • Great Lakes
  • Southeast
  • Mid-Atlantic
  • Northeast

Over the years, a number of international chapters have been formed and are grouped into the following AGO regions:

  • West:
    • Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, Shanghai, Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and British Columbia
  • North Central:
    • Manitoba, Nunavut
  • Northeast:
    • New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Europe, Finland
  • Southeast:
    • Barbados, Nairobi

These international chapters formally affiliate with the AGO rather than other professional associations that may already exist in their country, such as the Royal Canadian College of Organists or Royal College of Organists (UK).

A Regional Councillor is elected by the members of the Guild assigned to Chapters within each of the nine regions. The Regional Councillor is responsible for supervision and coordination of the work of the Guild in their Region and representation of the Region on the National Council.

Appointed District Conveners are responsible for the development of the Guild's interests in each state or area located within the Region. The District Convener assists the Regional Councillor in the work of the Region.

In addition to District Conveners, Regional Coordinators are appointed to assist the Regional Councillor and a National Councillor in coordinating work of a specific portfolio area of the Guild within the Region, such as education and professional concerns.

Michael Bedford is currently president, elected in 2016 to a two-year term succeeding John C. Walker. Past presidents elected in the 21st century, and their terms in office, are Eileen Guenther (2008–2014) and Frederick Swann (2002–2008).[5]

Programs and publications[edit]

The American Organist – monthly publication of the AGO

The organization holds national conventions in even-numbered years and regional conventions in odd-numbered years. The 2010 national convention held in Washington, D.C., on July 4–8, for example, included workshops and concerts at prominent Washington-area churches, with premieres of newly commissioned works.[6] The 2014 national convention, attended by more than 1,700 members, featured several notable venues in the Boston area, including Memorial Church of Harvard University and Trinity Church.

The AGO sponsors a number of education programs, including "Pipe Organ Encounters," which are intended to introduce youth to the organ and its workings. It also produces a series of instructional DVDs for organists, providing insights into advanced playing technique, organ registration, improvisation, and interpretation. Renowned organists on these Master Series videos are: Catherine Crozier (vol. 1), Marie-Claire Alain (vol. 2), Frederick Swann (vol. 3), Gerre Hancock (vol. 4), and Marilyn Mason (vol. 5).

The AGO issues several professional certificates and designations upon completion of the appropriate exams and membership in good standing: the Service Playing Certificate (SPC), Colleague (CAGO), Choir Master (ChM), Associateship (AAGO), and Fellowship (FAGO), the highest level of certification bestowed upon accomplished organists by the organization's Board of Examiners.[7]

In 1967, the AGO began publishing Music, a news journal for its membership. Now titled The American Organist, the monthly magazine is the official journal of the AGO for members and non-member subscribers. The illustrated periodical features news about new and restored pipe organs, concert programs, research into organ literature, chapter activities, and reviews of new organ compact discs. The American Organist is also the official magazine for the Associated Pipe Organ Builders in America. Its masthead proclaims the journal's goal, to further the AGO's " ... ideals, objectives, and cultural and educational aspirations".[8] From October, 1968, to June, 2009, The American Organist was also the official journal of the Royal Canadian College of Organists.[9]


  1. ^ a b "American Guild of Organists, Eastern New York Chapter Records, 1920-1999 (finding aid)". New York State Library web site. New York State Library. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Guild of Organists,, retrieved 18 December 2014
  3. ^ a b "About the American Guild of Organists". American Guild of Organists (AGO) website. 2007-12-03. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  4. ^ Guenther, Eileen. "From the President", The American Organist, August 2009, vol. 43 (no. 8), p. 3.
  5. ^ "American Guild of Organists Elects 2008–2010 National Council". American Guild of Organists. 2008-06-30. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  6. ^ "Washington DC National Convention". American Guild of Organists. 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-07-07. Retrieved 2009-05-23. 
  7. ^ "Summary of AGO Certification Requirements", The American Organist, January 2008, vol. 42 (no. 1), p. 19.
  8. ^ The American Organist, June, 2009, vol. 43 (no. 6), p. 2.
  9. ^ "RCCO Publications: A Brief History", The American Organist, June 2009, p. 11.

External links[edit]